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THE NUTS & BOLTS OF USING THE FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS TAX CREDIT AT CLOSING

FHA (finally) Reveals the Details

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan made headlines two weeks ago when he first announced that the FHA would allow first time home buyers to apply their $8,000 tax credits immediately, at their closings (The credit would otherwise be claimed when the buyer files his or her Federal Income Tax return).

Last Friday, FHA released mortgage letter 2009-15 which sets out the rules to implement this new policy. Welcome the latest form of secondary mortgage financing - the Tax Credit Advance Loan.

A big hat tip to Peter Olson's CCRE for alerting us all to the FHA's announcement.

The concept seems pretty straight forward. Buyers are going to offered the opportunity to take a second loan at the closing that roughly equates to the amount of their tax credit. The loan will be repaid or forgiven over time as would the tax credit as originally formulated.

WHY CHICAGO AREA BUYERS WANT TO USE THE CREDIT AT CLOSING

This might be helpful for buyers want to lower their monthly mortgage interest rates by either
  • making larger down payments, or
  • buying down the interest rate with discount points at closing
WHAT THE FHA EXPECTS TO SEE - THERE WILL BE SOME STRINGS ATTACHED:

The tax credit cannot be transferred from a Buyer to anyone else, so Buyers are not going to be able to "lease" their tax benefit like, say, a parking meter or a toll road to Indiana. Rather, these are going to be more like payday loans or advances against income tax refunds - only this time the loans will be secured against real estate.

Of course, there will be restrictions:

  • Home buyers will NOT be able to take cash back at closing. No walking away money.
  • The advance loan CANNOT be used towards the first 3.5 % of the purchase price, used as a down payment.
  • The advance loan CANNOT exceed the total of a buyers' down payment, closing cost and pre-paid expenses (pretty much the same as not being able to take cash out, isn't it?)
  • The loans cannot have a balloon re-payment period of less than 10 years.
  • If the loans call for "short" re-payment schedules, and buyers fail to repay on time, the loans must provide for a repayment schedule with principal & interest specified or that the loan goes "soft."

BUYERS WILL HAVE TO PAY TO PLAY:

Closing costs, that it. The FHA is suggesting that anything more than 2.5% of the credit amount ($200 on an $8,000 credit) is excessive. Anyone want to bet what the lenders are going to charge to make these tax credit advance loans? (Me, I am thinking ....$200). Then again, I will not be surprised to see some lenders "push the envelope" on that suggestion and some will certainly charge more. There don't seem to be any apparent or immediate penalties for charging "excessive" fees.

Depending on the title insurance requirements for these secondary loans, Buyers could reasonably expect to see $500 or more in additional title company charges too (second loan closing fees, second loan policies, recording fees and the like).

Interest rates for these loans will be set by the markets.

EXPECT EVEN MORE PAPERWORK

Lenders are going to have to verify that
  • the home buyer is eligible for the tax credit
  • the credit advance loan doesn't exceed the amount of the credit.
  • the buyer actually applies for the credit, and that
  • there are no offsets against the credit (i.e. wage garnishments, other tax liabilities or unpaid student loans)
We will have to see what terms lenders actually affix to these different options to decide which makes more sense for Buyers. The notion of using the credit towards the purchase price certainly seems like a good deal, particularly for buyers who intend to live in their first home for three or more years. Lowering monthly interest payments offers substantial savings over time.

On the other hand, I see two potential drawbacks.

First, it seems to me unlikely that these credit advance loans are going to be forgivable. The tax credit itself has a repayment period only if the home is resold within the first three years. Does it make sense to pay interest over a period of years to advance an otherwise free benefit?

Second, if the credit advance loan has to be applied to closing costs and pre-paids, Buyers will lose flexibility in negotiating inspection-related credits. There are only a finite number of costs and pre-paids. Interests rates can only be bought down so far. Negotiation of inspection issues for Buyers who intend to use advance loans will be much more restrictive.

Let me know if you want further details about Credit Advance Loans, or if they are going to make sense for you closing.

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